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“It’s Something I Have to Do”

Marjory Stoneman Douglas Graduates at UMD Take Action After Shooting

By Sala Levin ’10

Campus Scene

Photo by John T. Consoli

Photo by John T. Consoli

“Why is there a code red at Marjory Stoneman Douglas?” That was the first group text that Amit Dadon ’21 received from a high school friend on Feb. 14 as he studied for a midterm.

A student inside the Parkland, Fla., school responded: She and classmates were hiding in a storage closet. Someone was prowling the hallways, terrorizing the school by firing a gun into classrooms.

As the horror spread from his school to his phone, Dadon (above, right) turned to Twitter and watched in shock as the numbers of the injured and dead rose. When the shooting was all over, after some six minutes, 17 students and teachers had been killed, and many more injured, leaving a community and nation in mourning.

Perhaps more powerfully than any preceding school shooting in the U.S., this one has galvanized young people—first the grieving yet articulate teenage survivors of the tragedy, then many more nationwide—to demand changes in gun policy. Dadon and fellow Stoneman Douglas graduate and Terp Felipe Linares ’21 (above, left), have joined their peers, organizing a group of UMD students to attend the March 24 March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. Attendees’ goals include a ban on the sale of assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines, and stronger background checks for those buying guns.

“It’s something I have to do, especially as someone who’s called Parkland home for most of my life,” says Dadon. “It’s my duty to honor the victims by taking action for real change.”

Friends since seventh grade, Dadon and Linares describe Stoneman Douglas and Parkland as close-knit, where everyone has a connection to someone. It’s an affluent city studded with palm trees and gated communities, a place where “everyone always feels safe,” says Linares. “You feel like you can walk out and nothing’s going to happen to you.”

Though neither Dadon nor Linares—whose brother, a freshman at Stoneman Douglas, wasn’t in the building where the shooting took place—knew the victims personally, they shared mutual friends. “It’s hard for me knowing it’s someone I could have gotten to know and now I can’t,” says Dadon. “They weren’t strangers to us. We saw them in the halls and courtyards almost every day.”

Now, the friends speak passionately about wanting to remember the victims—and support their families and friends—by “not letting it be just another story that flushes out in the news cycle,” says Linares.

Dadon and Linares aren’t surprised that Stoneman Douglas students have become such fervent and visible spokespeople for their cause. The high school, they say, emphasized debate, journalism and theater, producing students able to argue eloquently and confidently.

The duo is encouraging others to take part in the ongoing dialogue, emphasizing the importance of talking to people with opposing viewpoints. “One of the biggest things that was stressed in our school is that brainstorming is bouncing ideas off each other and listening to the other side,” says Linares. “It’s about general population coming to an agreement.”

Above all, the friends have a simple hope: “I would like to see people not forget their names, not forget the stories of who they were, of who they could have been, and of the heroic teachers and coaches who saved students,” Dadon says. “I want people to be aware, to care—to want to make a difference in this, and to make sure that such a tragedy never happens again.”

Read more about the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting here.

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